[The Marvelous Rejects is a series of articles that look at film projects based on Marvel properties that were not considered a success from a financial and/or artistic perspective.]
The Punisher was released in 2004 with limited praise from critics and without exactly doing gangbusters at the domestic nor the worldwide box office. It’s available to stream on Netflix at the moment.
What is wrong with this movie?
(In short: everything.)
The biggest issue (and that’s saying something) with this movie is the tone. The reality that this world takes place in neither feels like any reality I know nor does it work within the context of the film. The film feels very “nineties” (in an oversimplified sense) to me in terms of look (bright but grainy), music (broad and over-the-top), and dialogue (stilted and blunt). That can absolutely work for certain films, but it does not work here in the slightest. It is certainly mystifying that it was released in 2004, as it feels like something that was made in the early nineties.
Unless you just approach The Punisher as a submission to Mystery Science Theater, I’m not sure what about this film anyone could find enjoyable. There isn’t a single inspired performance, action sequence, etc. in this film. There’s nothing for it to hang its hat on. No actor is put in a position to succeed. There is no emotional connection with any character established. It is a failure.
Does anything about the movie work?
No. Literally nothing.
What do you want from this property going forward?
As bad as the execution of this film was, I think the basic premise of the main character’s motivation is interesting/distinct enough (for Marvel Comics specifically) that Frank Castle could be of great value in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I would assume they want him for the Netflix corner, and I think his character would fit in very well with the tone established in season one of Daredevil.
Is this film worth watching?
This film did not offend me in any way. I left it just genuinely baffled any film could be this bad in essentially every way. Was this supposed to be a parody? It wouldn’t make the film better, but it would at least explain the approach that caused this to be the film that it ended up being!
I actually feel bad that I decided to write about this film, as I do not have anything remotely interesting nor illuminating to say about it. The Punisher is one of the worst films that I have ever seen. Stay far away.